Although expungement and sealing of a criminal record are similar, they apply to different circumstances.
Expunging Your Record
Expungement refers to the physical destruction of a record from public view, although a copy of the record is retained by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Unlike other states, you cannot apply to have your criminal conviction expunged but your record may be expunged only if the following exists:
- The charges against you were dismissed and,
- You have not pled guilty or been found guilty of any other crime.
When an order of expungement is issued, all law enforcement agencies and the courts must destroy the records of your arrest and charges. The Department of Law Enforcement maintains a copy but it is confidential and is not accessible to the public unless you are applying for employment before any of the following agencies or entities:
- Any public or private school
- Department of Education
- A law enforcement agency
- Department of Children and Families
- The Florida Bar
- Department of Juvenile Justice
- Any contractor or licensee dealing with children
Otherwise, you can truthfully deny the existence of any criminal record to any private employer.
You may only expunge a single criminal incident and only if you have not been found or adjudicated guilty of any other offense. For example, if charges were dismissed in a case a few years ago and not expunged and you were subsequently found guilty of another crime, the prior charge and its dismissal may not be expunged. Also, if more than one case is dismissed, you can only have one of the incidents expunged.
Should you have been arrested by mistake, you could have the non-judicial record expunged regardless of a subsequent arrest if you obtain approval by the head of the law enforcement agency or state law enforcement agency who admits to the mistake.
Sealing a Record
Sealing a record means that your physical record is not destroyed but is not accessible by the public except if you are applying for employment in circumstances noted above. Your criminal record may only be sealed if:
- You received a withhold of adjudication;
- You have not received a previous sealing;
- You have never been adjudicated guilty of any other crime;
- You are not under probation, pretrial release, or house arrest;
- You did not enter a plea of guilty or no contest to any of the below offenses that are not eligible for being sealed or expunged.
The following charges may not be expunged or sealed regardless if the court withheld adjudication:
- Aggravated assault or battery
- Burglary of a dwelling
- Child abuse
- Domestic violence
- Aircraft piracy
- Drug trafficking
- Manufacturing drugs
- Sexual crimes
- Offenses by public officials
- Online pornography
- Obscenity involving minors
- Elder abuse or abuse of a disabled person
- Procuring a person under 18 for prostitution
- Lewd or lascivious behavior on an elderly person or in the presence of persons under 16
- Car jacking
- Communications fraud
Contact a criminal expungement and sealing lawyer so you know your rights. Don’t let your criminal record affect your ability to get employment, further your education or hold you back in any way.